Letters address maintenance, fire risk of existing Hotel Aiken structure

·3 min read

Jul. 29—The chairs of the Historic Aiken Foundation and the Aiken Municipal Development Commission recently sent each other letters over maintenance on the existing Hotel Aiken.

Linda Johnson, chairwoman of the Historic Aiken Foundation, sent a letter to Aiken Municipal Development Commission Chairman Keith Wood on July 22 seeking to learn more about maintenance efforts on the structure located at the corner of Richland Avenue and Laurens Street in downtown Aiken.

Wood responded to Johnson's letter on July 26.

The Hotel Aiken property, currently owned by the Aiken Municipal Development Commission, is one of the properties included in Project Pascalis. The current proposal calls for the demolition of the hotel and a building located next to it on Laurens Street; however, those redevelopment plans are not confirmed, and the plans have been challenged in a lawsuit filed by several Aiken residents.

In her letter, Johnson asks the commission to ensure that the hotel is protected against unauthorized access.

Wood said in his letter that the commission has installed fencing and screening at the rear of the structure including chain link gates over entry points. He adds the city's security monitoring company, ADS, has been engaged to install motion and intrusion alarms in the building.

He adds the commission has worked with the Aiken Department of Public Safety to have a police cadet serve as an onsite caretaker for the site. Wood said the cadet is responsible for security and fire monitoring.

In her letter, Johnson says she observed an opened rear gate on July 18 with no one in sight.

Wood disputed this in his letter. He said that if Johnson saw an open gate someone authorized to be there was on the property.

Johnson also requests the commission make sure the roof access points are closed and rainwater drainage channels are clear in order to minimize further water damage to the interior.

Wood does not address this request directly in his letter. He does, however, say that the interior of the structure was substantially demolished prior to the commission's purchase of the building.

Wood adds the building has no electricity, no wiring, no utilities and that most of the interior parts of the building have been stripped.

"Walls have been opened through out the whole structure and numerous floors have been opened to the joists below," Wood said.

Johnson disputed Wood's characterization of the building as substantially demolished in a text message. She said the interior of the building looked like a building undergoing a renovation.

She also mentions the risk of fire in her letter and says that special measures need to be taken due to a lack of insurance on the building.

Wood acknowledges that the building, in its current state, does pose a fire risk. He adds there are a "robust" set of smoke, heat and fire sensors in the building with direct alerts provided to the Aiken Department of Public Safety. He also mentioned the cadet stationed near the site.

He says that the building is insured for $284,060 and adds that was all the insurance that could be underwritten for the property in its current state.

Wood also said the commission is working to improve the downtown area for generations to come by redeveloping the hotel and that those efforts have been hindered by a recent lawsuit filed to stop the current proposed plans for Project Pascalis from moving forward.